Something is deeply, deeply wrong with journalism in America.

Anyone who reads this KC Johnson post on the first anniversary of the New York Times manufacturing a rape case against Duke lacrosse players has to shudder. The most powerful newspaper in the world printed a 5600-word fantasy pawned off as news. Were it not for bloggers like Johnson, innocent men would have been sent to jail as the watchdogs of the fourth estate cheered on.

How does that happen? As with much evil, it usually starts with a greater good. The Times, along with virtually every media outlet in the country in tow, resolved that the Duke rape case was actually about social and racial injustice. And as every journalism school teaches that it is the role of journalism to right social wrongs, the actual facts of the case were subsumed to this goal. No serious person can dispute this.

This brings us to The Charlotte Observer and publisher Ann Caulkins. The Observer is marching down the same road as the Times by subsuming the facts of mass transit in Charlotte to the paper’s unshakable belief that American society is too dependent on the automobile, that it is a social good to support any and all spending on mass transit.

There is really no other way to explain the paper’s stance with regard to Center City Partners otherwise. As we’ve noted, CCP — a very thinly veiled city-funded lobby for the Center City — has taken a position in opposition to the repeal of the half-cent transit tax. Caulkins, as a board member of CCP, joined in voting for that resolution.

Neither development has been reported by the paper.

Worse, Caulkins has taken the position that her avowed support for the half-cent transit tax has had and will have absolutely no impact on the paper’s coverage of the issue. And so we are back at fantasy.

A paper’s top managers and editors do not so much order up stories in detail — although that sometimes happens — as they set the bounds for coverage. The Observer has steadfastly refused to take opponents of the tax at their word for their motivation while at the same time credulously publishing everything city government and CATS tosses out.

This is because, like the Times in the Duke rape case, the Observer has given itself license to right wrong. It is wrong for people to oppose mass transit plans of any kind and so they must be “educated” on the “facts” of the issue.

The Uptown paper of record is running out of chances to show it is the least bit concerned about the facts of mass transit in Charlotte.

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